Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Real Face of Jesus

Fifteen years ago there was a fascinating article in, of all places, Popular Mechanics [click to read the article.] Yes, my friends, this is what first century Jewish males looked like. And Jesus was a first century Jewish male. Surprised? "Wait a minute, that isn't the guy in the Shroud!" "How did that European guy get into Jesus shroud?" "That isn't the guy sitting at the table in Da Vinci's, 'Last Supper.'"  Are you confused? Don't be. Why wouldn't an artist in the middle ages or even at the European Renaissance, create a European Jesus? They didn't have the internet!

I'm European, mostly Irish-Scottish-English with a healthy dose of Germanic. I grew up in evangelical Protestantism, the Fundamentalist wing, in the USA. Jesus was a European, sans the long hair. I heard a preacher, back in the 70s say, "Jesus didn't have long hair and a beard. He wasn't a hippie! They 'plucked' out his beard, because he hadn't shaved in the couple days leading up to his trial. They plucked out his beard, like with tweezers." What? No one let Jesus borrow a disposable razor? And can you see the burly Roman soldier pulling out his Swiss Army knife, and the little tweezers hidden away next to the plastic toothpick, and plucking out Jesus' beard?  I never viewed Jesus as clean shaven, crew cut, Johnny Unitas.

Despite the sermons Jesus for me was Warner Sallman's,  the "Head of Christ" painting.

Yep, that's him, staring off in the distance, loving humanity, in touch with God the Father, yet ready to face the cross.

The bottom line is that through history people have seen Jesus through their own ethnocentric eyes. I don't know if that is bad. Christianity inculturates. That is one of its greatest strengths.

Everyone sees Jesus as they see themselves.  Jesus isn't us. According to Christian theology, he stood in humanity's place. But he isn't a European white guy.

By the way, Adam and Eve weren't Europeans either. Stop being shocked. You don't believe that garbage spewed out "Christian" racists a couple generations back, the mark of Cain, or the curse of Canaan. If you believe the Bible literally then all Cain's descendants died in the flood. And the descendants of Canaan, well they settled in...........Canaan! And were supposed to be exterminated by ancient Israel. Duh.

Michelangelo didn't get it right. Adam wasn't a white guy!

The paintings we white Europeans associate with Adam and Jesus, are all paintings by Europeans for Europeans. Put on your thinking caps, How do you get all the variety of the human race with a white guy and a white girl? I guess if Eve was a black girl, that might work. Perhaps Adam and Eve were more like muts. OK, let's scratch the word mut, and use Pardo (which sounds racist to my sensitive ears). Pardo is used in South America to describe the tri-racial blending of Europeans, indigenous Americans and West Africans.

What does it matter? The big question for those who claim to be Christians isn't Jesus' color, but whether they act like Jesus.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Welcome to "The Gallery of God." Yes, that is very pretentious. However, it does illustrate my current understanding of theology. I don't think of theology as an organized set of propositions, or a catechetical series of questions and answers. I'm not saying either of these approaches are wrong, but they are not exclusive. The Christian Bible itself isn't set up systematically. Even the most theological book in the Bible, the Epistle to the Romans, isn't.

It seems to me, one of the things that is missing in Christian theology is the beautiful images themselves. Language is the communication of images, not merely concepts. The concepts come through the image. No, we won't get into language theory here. For those who aren't wired to the left brain, the statement of a theological proposition is met with a blank stare, "OK.... So, uh, what does that mean?" Then, an illustration or metaphor is provided, and the response changes, "OH... Now, I get it." Why do we begin with the proposition? Why don't we begin with the image or metaphor?

What are you talking about, Rod? Off the top of my head:
I am the light of the world.
Behold, the Lamb of God.
He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.
Look and live.
The bride of Christ.
God is love.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.
His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

All of our soteriological words are also images. Again, off the top of my head:
None of these can be understood without the image.

So, I suggest that we, for the moment, stop quibbling about what is first in our systematic theology and instead step back and think about the elegance and beauty of religious thought.